The original Japanese words are listed, along with the English equivalent words in parenthesis.
- Seiri (Sort)
- Seiton (Straighten, Set)
- Seiso (Shine, Sweep)
- Seiketsu (Standardize)
- Shitsuke (Sustain)
In simple terms, the five S methodology helps a workplace remove items that are no longer needed (sort), organize the items to optimize efficiency and flow (straighten), clean the area in order to more easily identify problems (shine), implement color coding and labels to stay consistent with other areas (standardize) and develop behaviors that keep the workplace organized over the long term (sustain).
Here is a breakdown of each ‘S’
1. Sort (seiri) – Distinguishing between necessary and unnecessary things, and getting rid of what you do not need
- Remove items not used in area – outdated materials, broken equipment, redundant equipment, files on the computer, measurements which you no longer use
- Ask staff to tag all items which they don’t think are needed – this improves understanding about need and use
- Classify all equipment and materials by frequency of use to help decide if it should be removed – place ‘Red Tag’ on items to be removed
- Establish a ‘holding area’ for items that are difficult to classify – hold item for allotted period to enable others not on 5S team to review
2. Straighten (seiton) – The practice of orderly storage so the right item can be picked efficiently (without waste) at the right time, easy to access for everyone. A place for everything and everything in its place.
- Identify and allocate a place for all the materials needed for your work
- Assign fixed places and fixed quantity
- Make it compact
- Place heavy objects at a height where they are easy to pick from
- Decide how things should be put away, and obey those rules
3. Shine (seiso) – Create a clean worksite without garbage, dirt and dust, so problems can be more easily identified (leaks, spills, excess, damage, etc)
- Identify root causes of dirtiness, and correct process
- Only one work activity on a workspace at any given time
- Keep tools and equipment clean and in top condition, ready for use at any time
- Cleanliness should be a daily activity – at least 5 minutes per day
- Use chart with signatures/initials shows that the action or review has taken place
- Ensure proper lighting – it can be hard to see dirt and dust
4. Standardize (seiketsu) – Setting up standards for a neat, clean, workplace
- Standardization of best practices through ‘visual management’
- Make abnormalities visible to management
- Keep each area consistent with one another
- Standards make it easy to move workers into different areas
- Create process of how to maintain the standard with defined roles and responsibilities
- Make it easy for everyone to identify the state of normal or abnormal conditions – place photos on the walls, to provide visual reminder
5. Sustain (shitsuke) – Implementing behaviors and habits to maintain the established standards over the long term, and making the workplace organization the key to managing the process for success
- Toughest phase is to Sustain – many fall short of this goal
- Establish and maintain responsibilities – requires leader commitment to follow through
- Every one sticks to the rules and makes it a habit
- Participation of everyone in developing good habits and buy-in
- Regular audits and reviews
- Get to root cause of issues
- Aim for higher 5S levels – continuous improvement
Other Versions of 5S
Originally, the technique was called ‘4S’, with Set and Shine combined. However, Toyota and most other companies use the 5S as a standard.
Other improvement experts like Paul Akers have promoted the use of 3S on a daily basis in his book “2 Second Lean,” to focus on Sort, Sweep and Standardize, and not focus as much on straighten or sustain. He credits Hoks in Japan with teaching him this approach, as they felt 5S was too complicated.
The other options to include with 5S are Safety, Security and Spirit.
Safety: Safety is often said that it is implied within 5S that everything should be done with safety as the number one priority, but to ensure that is the case, Safety is added as an additional S. It is particularly prominent in manufacturing, warehouses, heavy equipment, construction, healthcare and laboratory settings, and in other contexts where potentially dangerous equipment or substances may be involved, and less prominent in office settings.
Spirit: To ensure that the focus of 5S is to make it easier for the workers, Spirit is added to remind people that it should be fun, and that creativity is key to coming up with new ideas and better ways to implement 5S. Without engaged workers, the 5S approach will not last or be successful.
Isolocity offers an example of how sustaining 5S in the workplace can be automated through software.
In Gemba Kaizen, author Masaaki Imai mentions another method, called 5 C’s (or five-C’s):
- Clear out
- Clean and check
- Custom and practice
Electronic (Digital 5S) Methods
A newer approach to 5S is using the methods to better manage the digital world (files, shared drives, networks, servers and more).
Check out this free short course, called “Electronic 5S” to learn more
Templates, Tools and Guides
Download free 5S e-book from Creative Safety Supply
See something you like? Use code “BPI” to save 10% off any purchase
5S at Home
- Tidying Up with Marie Kondo (Netflix)
- Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
- Book: Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up (The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up)
Want to get a broad Lean training online that is affordable? Check out OpEx Learning’s Lean Fundamentals course, which includes a section on 5S, along with 8 Wastes, Kaizen, A3 Thinking, Value, Value Stream Mapping, One Piece Flow vs Batching, Pull and Kanban, Takt Time, Root Cause Analysis, Standard Work, Ideal and Future States, and much more! Note: This is an affiliate link.
- Standalone Course – Free
- Standalone Course – Not Free
- Incorporated into other courses – Free
- Incorporated into other courses – Not Free
- Lean Fundamentals Course – OpEx Learning (affiliate link)
- 5S for Operators: 5 Pillars of the Visual Workplace by Hiroyuki Hirano
- Visual Workplace/Visual Thinking: Creating Enterprise Excellence through the Technologies of the Visual Workplace by Gwendolyn Galsworth
- Gemba Kaizen: A Commonsense Approach to a Continuous Improvement Strategy by Masaaki Imai
- 5S Made Easy: A Step-by-Step Guide to Implementing and Sustaining Your 5S Program by David Visco
- The 5S Pocket Guide by James Peterson and Roland Smith
Support and Resources
You can also find a local organizer to help you through the process in your personal life, through the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) >>>
You might also check out examples of home organization at LeanSixSigmaHomes.com
- The 5S System [Lean Manufacturing Methodology]– creativesafetysupply.com
- Tools for Each S in 5S– lean-news.com
- Utilizing Visual Communication with 5S– iecieeechallenge.org
- 5S Tools and Blueprint Used In My Last 5S Project– blog.creativesafetysupply.com
- Proper Descriptions Of The 5s– 5snews.com
- Using 5S Tools to Keep a Clean and Efficient Workspace– blog.5stoday.com
- Improve Workplace Safety with 5S– realsafety.org
- Lean Manufacturing with 5S– hiplogic.com
- How Floor Signs can help with your 5S Project– safetyblognews.com